shortbread

short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the category “Identity”

“Einstein’s Desk…Burns…and an Organizing Principle”

Einstein's face

My first job after college was that of “Youth Director” at Huffman United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. My supervisor was Director of Christian Education, Burns Nesbitt. Burns was a 50-something, retired Air Force chaplain with way too much life and knowledge to spend it golfing away the golden years, so, Burns took on the challenge of cultivating the educational ministries of a 1500-member congregation.

How to describe Burns?

Burns was a dreamer/planner/world-thinker/justice-seeker/teacher/trainer/ uproarious laugh-er/theologian/connoisseur of life’s simple gifts—not to mention, husband to Mary Alice (delightful, strong, and refreshingly honest), and father to Phil, Jaye, and Chris. All this said, Burns tried his best to bring it all together and live a life of integrity.

My first visit to Burns’ office was unsettling. How do I describe that 8’ x 12’ish space? Overstuffed bookshelves reaching floor-to-ceiling… institutional, gray-green metal desk…a couple of mismatched chairs—all upstaged by two-foot-high stacks of file folders, open reference books, periodicals, and do-dad keepsakes from people and places past. There were 2’ x 3’ sheets of white newsprint masking-taped around the walls with barely legible, color-coded, Magic Marker scribbles from recent meetings. There was a flip chart in the corner on a flimsey aluminum easel, and a fire hazard of a desktop strewn with loose papers, sticky notes and cheap pens. The words “tsunami” and “tetanus shot” come to mind. John Wesley, father of our Methodist OCD-ness would not have seen eye-to-eye with Burns—and not just because Burns was a foot taller. 

In time, I came to understand that Burns was perfectly comfortable in his little disaster area. The disorder was his order—and Burns could put his hand on anything he needed at a moment’s notice. He knew exactly where the red Magic Marker was, and the children’s Sunday School material, and the book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Question: Have you ever seen a photo of Einstein’s desk?…or Mark Twain’s?… or Steve Jobs? Take a look….

Desk-Einstein

Desk-Mark Twain

Desk-Steve Jobs

My point?   Different people have different ways of making sense of their world—that is, different organizing principles.  Maybe it’s do-lists, PDA’s, calendars, personal assistants, executive secretaries.  For some, it’s mentors, managers, coaches, or trainers.  Maybe it’s a favorite philosopher or theologian.

What’s important is that you find something that works for you—a simple truth or system that helps you figure out the specifics of your life…that helps you make sense of a discombobulated world, and make a little hay while your mortal sun shines.

Now, Burns was no Einstein—though he had his occasional bursts of brilliance—but Burns had found a system that worked for him….

Amazing that he could find it in that office!

Keith Elder

2-3-2015

http://keithelder.com/

Advertisements

“An Open Letter to Jameis, Ray, Roger, etc.”

Dear Jameis, Ray, Roger, etc., etc.”

All we wanted was a nice, evening with friends and family. A little food and drink. A little friendly banter. A great game. But that’s not what we got. Our night was intercepted by play-by-play and commentary on the latest episode of “Athletes Behaving Badly.” Suspensions, arrests, abuse charges—then, of course, spin by publicists and coaches and league officials trying to save their… Butkus awards.

Now, I don’t know you guys personally. And no head coaches or commissioners have called to ask for my take on the matter—but here it comes.

You guys are ruining it for everybody. Taking away from a game that has given you everything. Where would you be today without this game? And, yet, you are ruining it—siphoning off the magic and the excitement of great rivalries and cool autumn afternoons and tailgate reunions.

FYI, Average Joe and Jane Public don’t to want hear another “athlete beats up anybody story.” (Add to that, doping, bird-flipping, shoplifting, racial slurs from penthouses, or disgusting language from atop cafeteria tables). There’s not a person out there who works a real job, who is not repulsed by your behavior. We commoners look to sports as a little break from realities of a tough economy and terrorist threats and killer viruses—and here you come, just turning it into more bad news. We are tired of having to explain you to our kids, “Oh, he’s not a bad person, he just did a bad thing.”

Or are you a bad person?  Lord knows, there are evil people out there in the world. Jesus said, “You’ll know a tree by its fruits.” Right now, Friends, your fruits don’t speak very highly of you. They’re saying you don’t respect the game…or the fans…or your family…or yourself.

As far as we are concerned you can go away and stay away, until you begin to get your orchard in order. But that won’t happen, really, without a change of heart…and that’s something you’ll need to discuss with God. Only God can change a heart.

Sincerely hoping your tree gets better soon.  Mine too.

Keith Elder

9-22-2014

http://keithelder.com/

“Tony Robbins, Dog Training, and Saving Yourself”

th

I’m new to Twitter. Just beginning to know some of what I don’t know I don’t know. I do know I need to tweet more. I need to learn about hashtags (#duh).

Mostly, I’m learning that not everything you read can be read lightly.

For instance, Tony Robbins tweeted a Michael Hyatt link entitled, “What my Dog Trainer Taught Me About Leadership.” (http://buff.ly/1j3vMI1, but don’t go there just yet.)  It offered a few good insights, but there was a quote that, as I mentioned, cannot be read lightly.

“The Russian saint, Seraphim of Sarov (a household name, I’m sure), once said, ‘Save yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.’”

I don’t think that the 18th century saint and wonder worker, celebrated January 2nd in the Russian Orthodox Church, was nixing Jesus’ words, “He who wishes to save his life must lose it.”  (Matt. 16:25)  I can’t imagine that he was tossing out most New Testament writings about laying down one’s life in service to others, taking up our cross, etc.

My bet is that he was talking along the lines of securing your air mask before securing your child’s in case there is a loss of cabin pressure on the plane. I mean, if you pass out, your kid’s a goner.

Maybe Seraphim was talking about coming to grips with our issues—be they addictive behaviors, bad habits, painful pasts, broken relationships, or even something as simple as not showing up on time for meetings. Maybe he was trying to say that if others see us overcoming and succeeding, it just might stir the hope in them that they can overcome and succeed too.

Not to put words in a Russian saint’s mouth (you know that’s not sanitary), but maybe that’s what ol’ Seraphim of Sarov was trying to say to people in positions of leadership.

Become your best you, and there is no telling how many others will be inspired and empowered to become their best them.

Twead–i.e., read tweets–carefully.

Keith

5-13-14

 

http://keithelder.com/

https://twitter.com/keitheldermusic

 

 

“THE World Religion…and Football”

Image

I like that.

“BUDDHA was not a BUDDHIST.  JESUS was not a CHRISTIAN.  MUHAMMAD was not a MUSLIM.  THEY were TEACHERS who taught LOVE.  LOVE was their RELIGION.”

Now, I realize that some folks will be offended to have Jesus lumped in with other world religious leaders and simply referred to as a teacher.  The Easter event did set him apart as being out (of the tomb) of the ordinary. However, whoever made the observation made a good one.  LOVE was the common prize in all three Cracker Jack boxes.  Love was the light at the end of their tunnels. Love was their “bottom line.”

Honestly, I haven’t studied Buddha or Muhammad (by the way, spell-check has three acceptable spellings for “M___”), but even if they didn’t claim to be God, I’m sure they meant well .  They were just trying, along with Jesus and John Lennon, to get people to understand that “All We Need is Love.”

Jesus tried to reboot the system of his hyper-religious forbearers who had gotten tangled up in six hundred and thirteen Old Testament laws and centuries of religio-politics.  We do that too, don’t we?  I mean, get tangled in what version of the Bible is best, and how much of the church budget should go to missions, and what kind of music to play in worship. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. …By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John—not to be confused with Lennon—13:34-ish)

A frustrated football coach walks into the locker room after yet another dismal performance, stands before his players and says, “Boys, I think it’s time we got back to the basics.” At this point, he holds up a brown leather oblong air-filled object with white stripes and seams. “This,” he says, “is a football.”  At which point, a big lineman, half-listening in the back of the room, raises his hand and says, “Hey, Coach, could you go a little slower?”

What’s your religion?  I’m thinking, “LOVE” would be a really good answer about now.

Keith

4-23-14

keithelder.com

“Xerox… Brother Dominick…and writing your own book”

xerox-monks-miracle

I’ve had many book ideas through the years.  An insight would hit me, and I would realize immediately, “This is going to take more than a three-minute song to unfold.”  So, with a great sense of urgency, I would grab pad and pen and begin scribbling an outline. After breaking the big idea into ten or so chapters; after bouncing the idea off of whoever would listen; I would begin writing the actual manuscript, only to freeze like a deer in the headlights.

What happened?  Why have I yet to finish my first book?

Fear, I think.  I’m afraid that people won’t like what I write, and that I’ll look foolish (or more foolish).  I’m afraid that the publishers won’t catch the vision, or that people who know me will say, “Who does he think he is, writing a book?”  The people looking for something profound to quote in their book or sermon will say it’s simplistic.  “He didn’t say anything that I didn’t already know.”

Any artist who’s too worried about what others think has ceased to be an artist.  They have become a toll painter. There’s nothing fresh.  Nothing original.

The same goes for writers.  If I’m just rearranging what’s already been written, I’m not an author, I’m a scribe—like Father Dominick in the old Xerox commercials—just copying someone else’s scrolls.

The student who gets a C+ on an essay stays after class to ask his professor why.

“Why did you receive a C+?” the professor responds. He leans forward in his chair and peers over his reading spectacles.  “Because you didn’t say anything.  True, your form was exceptional, the references were interesting, but you never said anything.  Use the source material as a springboard to tell me what you think and believe and feel.  Only then will you get an A in my class—or in life for that matter.”

Gotta run.  I have a book to finish.  If I don’t write it, it won’t get written—and it matters too much not to be written.  “The Stories of Our Lives”… very cool… a must read!

Keith

4-21-14

keithelder.com

“What Inspires You?”

Shiane Hawke--X-Factor

This morning, as I sipped my standard cup of non-gourmet coffee and spent my allotted fifteen minutes scrolling down the facebook newsfeed, I stumbled across a post that inspired me.

A shy fourteen year-old from Darby, England, Shiane Hawke (pronounced Cheyenne) walked onto the “X-Factor” stage without the stereotypical superstar look—whatever that looks like.  (Note: if you are famous or popular or rich simply because you look a certain way, it doesn’t say much for you or fame or the popular intelligence and soul.)

Shiane is just Shiane—she’s bright and winsome, but she was on the newsfeed this morning because the girl can sing!  She stood alone before a live audience of thousands and a television audience of millions and blew their socks off with a spot-on (only British I know) rendition of “Mercy.”

Bottom line, I was inspired.

I watched the clip not once, not twice, but three times! I was stirred, motivated, moved—again, inspired.  It wasn’t a “spiritual” post, but somehow it was.  It made me want to get better at what I do… to be a better person… to try, try again… to take chances… to forget about my limitations and fears-due-to-perceived-limitations—and just go for it.

What inspires you?  What makes you want to do better and  be better?  What puts the life-breath back into your life?

A particular artist?… a writer of great songs or fiction?… a motivational speaker?… a visual artist?… a coach or teacher? …going to a certain  place?  …being around a certain group of people?

Maybe you are inspired by someone who has struggled against all odds and found their way to great success.  Those stories are my favorite.

Be inspired, friends.  There is inspiration at every turn.  God, inviting you to come-out, come-out from wherever you are.  There’s life and hope and love and joy–as the saying goes, “There’s gold in them thar hills!”

Assignment:  Look in the obituaries this morning.  If your name is not listed, assume this is your day.

Go for it.

And now for the clip…

http://blog.petflow.com/they-all-made-fun-of-this-girl-until-she-opened-her-mouth-wow-you-have-to-hear/

Peace and Passion

Keith

4-10-14

“The Dalai Lama..The Super Bowl…and Much ado about Something”

Image

It’s been an interesting week in the news—or, at least, on my news feed. 

Birmingham and Atlanta, paralyzed by winter storms…The State of the Union Address…American Idol auditions…The Phoenix Open…Richard Sherman re-rants… Peyton Manning… a trip to Rome, GA, to see “the fam”…a new song or two…almost getting the caramel cake icing right.

I didn’t say it was MSNBC.  It was just some of the headline news on my screen.  What did your news feed look like?  What were the lead stories?  What stories bumped other stories or interrupted regularly scheduled programming?  In a week or so, which ones will you still remember?

Scripture would suggest that God—even with unlimited memory—just lets go of a lot of what happens over time. It’s just not worth saving. Unfortunately, so much of what we do and say and buy, and labor over, and worry about, and invest in—time-wise and money-wise—probably won’t make The Editor-in-Chief’s “Remotely Important” list.

A Shakespearean title comes to mind: “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Rescuing people trapped on gridlocked interstates; taking care of children who can’t leave school; hosting total strangers in churches and homes?  Something.

Spending tens of thousands of people-hours and, billions of dollars on food and tickets and travel and security and pre-game and halftime rehearsals—for yet another non-competitive Super Disappointment?  Nothing.

With all the amazingly important options out there—most of which cost little or nothing in monetary terms—we human beings keep going back to the same old “Nothing” bin and trying to make something out of nothing.

Late breaking news… “Actor/Oscar winner, Philip Seymore Hoffman, found in NYC apartment, dead of apparent drug overdose at age 47.”  Amazing talent.  Hyper-successful. Respected by his peers.  Loved by a beautiful life partner and mother of his three great kids.  And heroin.  It’s just a shame—all that “something” lost to a “nothing.”

The Dalai Lama wrote, “The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

I would paraphrase that wisdom: “WE do not need to be more successful people.  We desperately need to be peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”  

Yes, desperately.   The Nothing’s are killing us.

Keith

2/3/2014

keithelder.com

“Steve Seskin… and Feeding the Dream”

th

I am not usually one to say, “I am stoked!”… but I am stoked!  In few minutes, I’ll be making the short drive from Franklin to Nashville and Douglas Corner Café to hear one of my songwriter heroes, Steve Seskin, in a 9:00 PM show.

Steve is behind such hits as “Life’s a Dance” (John Michael Montgomery) and “I Don’t Know Why They Say Grown Men Don’t Cry.” (Tim McGraw). For the most part Steve’s songs are pretty substantive and life-affirming (no mud flaps, sweet ice tea, cut off jeans, Jack Daniels). He lives in California, but travels to Nashville a few times a year to write.  He comes once a year—this weekend—to lead an intense songwriting workshop. Two very full days at the Bluebird Café, talking songwriting with participants and industry pros.

The workshop is not cheap. And a 9:00 PM show is late for me.  And Saturdays and Sundays are pretty precious time.   But we are talking about a dream here.

You see, somewhere deep down, I have this sense that I could be pretty good at this songwriting thing.  It’s a fire that won’t go out. May be a call of sorts—and I can’t help feeling like it’s my duty to work it out.

I have writing goals.

I write something everyday “to keep the pencil sharp for that day when the hit comes along.”  (Harlan Howard)

I finish at least one song a week.  (This week I’ve finished four and started several others—but then, I am stoked…J)

Besides playing weekends, I play in writers venue almost every week, and always perform at least one new song.

I listen to great songwriters, in live venues or via youtube—classics like James Taylor and Guy Clark.  Newer acts like Mumford and Son, The Lumineers, John Mayer.

I am a member of a songwriter association (NSAI) and go to local workshops on Thursday evenings or catch their pro teaching via archives or live streaming.  I read lots on the subject.

Why all the fuss?  Got to feed the dream.

What’s your dream?…  and what are you doing to feed it?  Most dreams die of starvation, you know.

Keith

1/24/2014

keithelder.com

“Jiminy Cricket, Charlie Brown, and Changing Your Stars”

th

(A word: Friends, this blog is about four times as long as my usual posts. Very much the exception to the Shortbread rule.  But don’t think of it as a long blog… just think of it as a short book!  I could have chopped it up into several blogs, but I thought it would be most valuable to you as a unit.) 

All due respect, Jiminy Cricket, but wishing upon a star won’t—in the words of Larry the Cable Guy—“git ‘er done.”

If you have a piece of paper handy, draw a simple five-point star—a star representing your plan of action for 2014.  It is a star that you will look at each day of the year to assure that you are staying on task in order to get to where you say you want to be by January 1, 2015.

It’s an old question: “Can a person change his or her stars?”  In other words, can we, by changing our attitudes and actions, rewrite the way our life story will play out?… the way we will be remembered?

The answer: absolutely. 

What I offer today is a simple tool to help you change your stars.  It is an approach that can help you get a handle on that life goal or dream that has, eluded you to date.  I particularly have a heart for those who have struggled to find their highest and best. Like Charlie Brown, your kite keeps getting stuck in the tree, or Lucy keeps snatching the ball away just as you’re about to kick it.  I know those frustrations.  But the tool is not solely for those on the edges of the dance floor.  It is just as applicable for those in the middle and those near the top of the life-fulfillment ladder.  It’s for anyone who has something they sincerely want to accomplish over the coming months, in any give area of their life.

Now, let’s be clear from the get-go: if you won’t work, it won’t work.  If you are waiting on someone else to make your life happen, it won’t work. If you are a quitter, it won’t work.   This is a tool–not a magic wand.

And now, for the star.

The first point—the top point of the star—is INSPIRATION.  You’ve got to identify something you really want—or really want to be.  A clear target.  I believe that the best of our dreams and ideas come from somewhere beyond us.  Call it your destiny.  Call it the will of God for your life.  What are your primal dreams?  What do you want to be when you grow up?  What are those underlying desires, beneath the surface wants?

A meaningful vocation… a comfortable home… loving relationships…  an adequate retirement at a reasonable age.  I want to write a book… or a song….  I want to get my weight down to ___ lbs. in the name of being healthy and living longer.  I want a better relationship with my spouse.

What’s your INSPIRATION—i.e., your vision for you?  There will likely be several items–physical, spiritual, career, family, etc..  Which ones are on top of your list for this year?  Write them down! Cut out pictures from magazines that give you a visual of those dreams.  Put them on the refrigerator door or on the bathroom mirror to keep them before you and remind you that this is where you are going.  They are your INSPIRATION.

Move clockwise to the second point of this star. Tag it, EDUCATION.  You begin reading around the subject of your dreams. You take notes. You memorize quotes and devour training CD’s and videos. You immerse yourself in the topic.  You talk to people who know more about the subject than you do.  It is one thing to have a dream, it is quite another to do your homework so that you can score well when the test rolls around.  Jesus once said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Vice-versa, where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.  If you really want something, you will invest yourself in it—your time, your money, your energy.

How do I go about writing a book?  How do I play a G chord on the guitar?  What tools do I need to build a piece of furniture?  How do I mix paints and work brushes to get the desired effect?  The second point of this star-changing star is EDUCATION.

The third point of the star is MOTIVATION. You’ve gotten a spark or two, but how do you fan that spark into flame, and how will you fuel the fire over time?  Great coaches are motivators.  They have the gift of drawing out the best in their players.  Where do we find the motivation to keep after our dreams?   You might Google “motivational speakers”.  Besides books or programs you might purchase, there is an ocean of free material.   You stay motivated by surrounding yourself with like-minded, can-do, wanna-do individuals. To stay motivated, you will probably need to say a few holy good-byes to individuals or groups that drag you down and pull you in the opposite direction of where you need to go.  Sadly, there are people out there who do not want you to succeed, and, consciously or unconsciously, they will try to undermine your progress.  MOTIVATION is the third indispensable point on your star.

The fourth point of the star is PERSPIRATION. Folks, if it was easy to be great, everyone would be great. But the truth is, anything worth having will involve sacrifice and strain…blood, sweat and tears.  It’s going to mean studying when you’d rather hang out with your friends or watch TV.  It’s going to mean making yourself go to the gym even when your don’t feel like it or even when it’s nine degrees outside (like it is this morning.)  PERSPIRATION—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—means pushing yourself through to the next level, then pushing yourself to the next.   Sometimes, it means saying no to those old habits that keep you in that downward spiral of failure and shame.  Anyone knows—breaking old habits is hard work, but you can cultivate new habits and a new future with a little PERSPIRATION.

The fifth and final point on the star is DETERMINIATION.  It is easy to be good for a day…to be committed for a week.  But without unwavering resolve, dreams will evaporate over time and in the face of adversity.  If you haven’t made up your mind ahead of time that you are going to stay the course, you are likely to run from the battle.  “Where there’s a will,” as they say, “there is a way.”  What determination does is galvanize the will.  I know what I want—more, I know what I am meant to do and beand I will get there…period!  Now, it’s just a matter of working out the practical steps from A to B, and following through.

The word, “determination” has two parts: “terminate” which means “to end”, and the prefix, “de”, which means “back” or “away from”.  To say that I am determined is to say there is no end to my resolve—that there is no going back.  DETERMINATION seals the star-changing deal.

In the middle of the star, I would just write the word, REALIZATION.  This is the pay-off for working the five points.  This is moving into the new home.  It is walking across the stage and receiving that diploma. It is stepping on the scales and seeing that you have reached your target weight.  It’s yelling along with Dave Ramsey, on live talk radio, “I’M DEBT FREE!!!!!”

There will come a point where you will find yourself enjoying this process. The late, great, Zig Ziglar’s wisdom comes to mind: “You don’t pay the price of success—you pay the price of failure.  You ENJOY the price of success.”

And you will.  I’d love to hear your star stories.

Keith

1/6/2014

keithelder.com

“Choose Life”

It’s probably not what you think.  I’m not thinking about the big “Choose Life” you see on the bumper stickers; I’m thinking micro-choices, mini-choices.  (In no particular order….)

I choose life when I…

…choose a healthy meal or snack over the unhealthy options;

…drink more water and less soft drinks, caffeine, sugars, etc.;

…pack my gym bag the night before and go exercise first thing in the morning;

…read materials that motivate and inspire rather than bottom-feeder news;

…turn off the television and work on cool projects;

…go to bed at 10 or 11 at the latest;

…make a point of speaking to my neighbors and touching base with family;

…take time to read a psalm and sit with God a few minutes in the morning;

…help when I see a need I can fill;

…check my facebook a couple of times a day rather than twenty.

I choose life when I…

…write notes of encouragement;

…practice all along–rather than cramming for the test;

…listen more and talk less—particularly when praying;

…let go of those old ghosts of the past—the hurts, the failures, the debilitating shame;

…do my best to do my best—then move on;

…savor the beautiful, the excellent, the noble;

…ask people ahead of me on the path for their take on my situation;

…encourage those behind me on the path;

…stand up for the little guy;

…help somebody every day.

I choose life when I…

…remind myself that I am mortal, and I can’t do everything;

…downsize;

…just say no when I know I should just say no;

…remember my roots and the people who have believed in me;

…let a few trustworthy souls into what’s really going on in my heart and mind;

…stop comparing my weaknesses to other people’s strengths;

…seize the moment and savor the day;

…do unto others as I would have them do unto me  (Jesus’ idea);

…grow a moral spine and do the right thing;

…love better, deeper, wider.

I hope my list jumpstarts yours.  Choose life.

Keith   9/29/13

 

e-mail: keitheldermusic@gmail.com        website: http://keithelder.com

 

Post Navigation

Little Fears

Tales of whimsy, humor and courgettes

Holy Soup

with Thom Schultz

Hey Preacher!

everything I forgot to say on Sunday

Mind's Seat

Set your mind on the things above

JUMP FOR JOY Photo Project

capturing the joy of the human spirit - in mid air - around the world

AIKIDO-NO-SEKAI

Non-violence. Talking Peace. Everything Aikido.

Tony Romano

Songwriter

Songwriting Pro

Helping songwriters turn pro.

4 Worn Passports

Inspiring Family Gap Years and Independent Global Travel